By Ben Robinson
The final game on the home floor is always emotional, but when it’s the final time for 12 seniors – seven players and five cheerleaders – the emotion is at an all-time high.
Which was the case Friday night as Covington hosted rival Newton for the final home game in the careers of seniors basketball players Braden Miller, Zach Parrett, Nathan Lyle, Bradley Wiggins, Ryan Gengler, Nick Risner and Jett Murphy, along with senior cheerleaders Aliya Weer, Breanna Kimmel, Danielle Rose and Legend Patty.
And the evening couldn’t have ended any better for Covington as it avenged a 51-48 defeat to Newton from earlier in the season with a memorable 65-56 win.
But what made it even more special was the final minute of the game where senior Jett Murphy was inserted in for Braden Miller to shoot – and make – two free throws. It was the only two points in Murphy’s senior season – a season that was derailed due to a severe knee injury suffered prior to the first game.
Nick Risner was the lone senior who wasn’t able to see the floor due to a season-ending injury he suffered early in the year.
The five other Buccaneer seniors started the game and sparked the Buccaneers to a 12-7 lead midway through the opening quarter thanks to two treys by Braden Miller and another trey and a traditional three-point play by Bradley Wiggins.
But the Buccaneers hit a scoring drought and Newton closed out the first eight minutes on a 6-0 run to take a 13-12 lead after one.
Buckets were hard to come by for Covington in the second quarter as the Buccs only managed a trey and a layup by Nathan Lyle. Fortunately, the Buccs were able to get to the free throw line and knocked down all five attempts from the charity stripe to take a 22-20 lead at the break.
But Newton has some shooters and when they get rolling – look out.
And the Indians got rolling in the third quarter as Treg Jackson scored ten points in the frame on two threes and a pair of short jumpers, while Chet Jamison hit on a three and a layup to go along with buckets by Ryan Mollette and Ethan Cook.
But Covington was able to weather the storm thanks to a three by Wiggins, a pair of baskets by Gray Harshbarger and baskets from Andrew Cates, Zach Parrett, Nathan Lyle and Braden Miller. Plus, Covington converted on six of ten free throws in the quarter to maintain a slim lead, 43-39.
Once again, Newton proved it’s a scrappy bunch as Jamison scored 10 of his game-high 23 points in the final frame to keep the Indians within striking distance.
But Covington was able to hold off the Indians down the stretch thanks to converting on 10 of 12 free throws in the final quarter – two coming by the surprise entrance of Jett Murphy.
Leading 63-56 in the final seconds, the final highlight for Covington came on a layup by senior Ryan Gengler in the waning moments.
In all, the six seniors who saw the floor for the Buccaneers accounted for 47 of Covington’s 65 points on the night as all six seniors scored with Braden Miller leading the way with 18 points and Bradley Wiggins scoring 13 points.
Which made for the perfect evening for the Buccaneers who improve to 5-15 on the season and 4-7 in the CCC.
Covington closes out its regular season with back-to-back games on the road – at Tri-County North on Tuesday and at Mississinawa Valley next Friday.